For most of my childhood, everyone knew me as the computer nerd. That was my identity, all the way though high school and into college. My friends, my classmates, my family, and even I expected for me to become a programmer or build electronics or something along those lines. (It didn't really matter that I really wanted to be an author, because even in my dreams I couldn't imagine making a living off my amateurish writing.) However, when I went to college, I discovered that "fun cool hobby" does not directly translate into "fun easy classes" and I quickly dropped out, leaving a valuable, very selective scholarship and countless opportunities behind forever.
In the years that followed, everyone still knew me as the computer geek, even though it defined my life less and less. I was raising children and trying to figure out how to be all the great things I looked up to my parents for and avoid the things I wished they had done differently. One of the kids I was raising has a life-shortening chronic disease, which has both helped set priorities straight and also created a backdrop of continual struggle - financial, physical, mental - ever since. All of this was private, though, kept inside my home. Through it all, I was still looking for something I could be, something I could do, something I could make of myself of my own choosing, instead of this identity that other people had placed upon me.
Then it happened. Shortly after 9/11, watching helplessly as the rescue effort dragged on - not the first time I had seen it, just on a bigger scale, as the Murrah bombing in OKC was only a couple hours drive from my house - I wanted to jump in the car and drive to NYC as if there was anything I could possibly do that wasn't already being done. I decided to go to nursing school with Karen, so that maybe in the future when a disaster happened I actually could help. I graduated, got a job, and moved forward.
It did not take long to move on from that first job and take a desk job that merged my computer background with my nursing knowledge and experience. It was a perfect fit for me, though it took me further away from actually helping people, and essentially keeps me grounded here at home while I still watch helplessly to things happening across the globe. This path has been the right choice for my family and my finances for sure, though it has not been very satisfying to me.
Last year, I started a new journey of sorts. We rescued a pregnant dog from the county animal shelter, helped her have her litter of puppies, and adopted them out. We then got another, and another, and another... We have saved, sheltered, raised, and found homes for more than 40 dogs and cats since last July. But the problem that our county shelter faces is huge, and there is so much work to be done beyond the hundreds of extra foster homes we need. We all have to do more - I have to do more.
So, here's the thing. I'm still that computer geek. I'm still a nurse. I'm still that guy that friends and family can call when they need $20 for gas. But I'm also going to be "that crazy dog guy," because I can make a difference. Maybe enough of a difference that someday, this is the label people will think of first.
And I'll be okay with that.
I hope one day that you will take up the pen again. You are a thoughtful writer (as your post attests), and it would be great to see that talent in print. I remember the excerpts that I read of some of your writings in school. They were delightful. I want more.
I am enjoying watching you on your journey. It brings me great pleasure!
Karen and I took a trip to Phoenix to go to a book signing by Seth Casteel, the photographer who did the underwater shoot last year that I posted about recently. He talked for most of an hour, and during his slideshow had both pictures of Corey and Zelda, and spoke about how Zelda was his favorite out of the entire book. He recalled how our rescue had been so nervous about letting Zelda in the water, because she was special needs, but after watching her littermates being taught how to swim out of the pool, she dived into the water on her own and climbed out just like her siblings. This was how he ended a brief segment about pool safety and how important it is to teach dogs how to get out of a pool - they know how to swim by instinct, but they don't instinctively know how to climb pool ladders or where the stairs are.
Zelda, of course, had a very short life. Her brain damage from canine herpes virus - which took several of her littermates shortly after birth - would soon lead us to believe euthanasia was the most humane option for her. Every time I think about Zelda, all I can think about is that we - I - failed her. That I should have tried to find a way to train her or deal with her wildly irrational and unpredictable behavior. It isn't logical - for one thing, I would have been risking my children's safety around a 4 month old puppy that had started to growl and bite with absolutely no warning or provocation. It just wasn't fair that my family had saved this newborn puppy from death only to have to put her to sleep a few months later.
And yet, here is Zelda's legacy. Out of 1500 puppies that had photos taken for this book, she is there, and she gets to help teach the world about keeping our pets safe around water.
Photo is Copyright 2014 Seth Casteel.
Odie is dead.
Odie was killed by you and me. It wasn’t because someone didn’t go down to the shelter and adopt her. It wasn’t because someone didn’t sign up as a foster to rescue her from the “short term rescue” list. It isn’t because we didn’t like and share and network her enough.
No, she was never given any of those chances.
Odie was killed last week at the Pima Animal Care Center. I really want to say murdered, but that implies it was illegal, and by all indications the staff had the proper form signed by the proper number of people so that they could, by law, condemn this pet to death.
Odie was surrendered after her owner of six years passed away, and next of kin couldn’t care for her. She had a collar on with a tag that read, “I’m deaf,” and the volunteer who took this photo said she appeared to be blind as well. Not surprisingly, Odie was getting stressed out and barking loudly in the shelter - being thrown in a concrete cell with strangers and all the strange smells can’t be an easy situation for any animal, let alone one that cannot hear or see clearly. Can you imagine your own disorientation? With the simple touch of a few fingers through the wire gate, she stopped barking and calmed down. All she needed was companionship.
The evaluator who assessed Odie told the volunteer she was going off for alter surgery before becoming available for adoptions, so she posted this photo to start spreading the word.
Odie’s story was very personal to me because my most recent rescue litter included a deaf puppy. I was so worried about finding her an appropriate home, but wouldn’t you know it she was the first puppy adopted, taken home by a loving family that did their research and was committed to the challenges of a deaf dog. But bad things do happen, and Odie could easily have been my puppy, a couple years from now.
There are so many ways this story could end. There are rescues who specialize in special needs animals who are blind and or deaf. There are people who would drop everything to get this girl out of this miserable environment and into a safe home. I would have dropped everything if I knew my puppy was there. But you already know that isn’t how this story ends. Instead of going to be altered as the volunteer had been told, Odie was actually taken away to be euthanized.
The solution to the confusion caused by the strange shelter environment in this healthy girl who had been a loved family member for six years... was to kill her.
How is this our fault? Pima Animal Care Center is a public shelter, a government agency run by the Pima County Health Department. They are ultimately accountable to our elected county officials, and they ultimately represent us. PACC has made a lot of progress in the past few years, but only because of the pressure the rescue community has put on them, and it isn’t enough. We just gave them a $22 million check for a brand new facility, so there has never been a better time to change the culture. They will only continue to improve if there is continued public pressure to do so.
Adopt. Rescue. Volunteer. Donate. But at the very least, spread the word, raise awareness, and make your voice heard. Do it now, before the next Odie comes into the shelter.
(Photo copyright Heather Dean Binnie - heatherlb.blogspot.com)
I don't get why someone would pass up an older dog just because of their age, but we see it all the time at adoption events. Heck, the animal shelter here calls dogs over 5 "seniors" and discounts their adoption fees... In human terms, that makes me a senior. Even if they only have a year left, why wouldn't you want them to live it as best as possible?
- Tulsa Community CollegeAssociates in Nursing, 2002 - 2005
- University of OklahomaComputer Engineering (not completed), 1997 - 1998
- Tucson Medical CenterRN, Systems Analyst, 2005 - present
- Diversified System ResourcesTechnical Analyst, 1999 - 2003
- Phillips PetroleumScience Intern, 1997 - 1998
@SarcasticRover: This Is Why Mars Can’t Have Nice Things | TIME.com
Ten years on, I come to praise Spirit — not to bury it. This being Mars, the dust storms have probably buried it by now anyway.
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